Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat—the two novels from which AMC’s Interview with the Vampire mostly pulls—are both written as memoirs. In their own ways, Louis and Lestat both need to make sense of the past to make sense of the present. They define themselves by telling their stories. The pair of novels play with the unreliability and subjective nature of memory.
The second episode of Interview with the Vampire subtly reminds us that Louis (Jacob Anderson) is still processing the story he’s recounting to Daniel (Eric Bogosian). Louis remains the point of view character who guides us through the story. His narration gives us insight into how he’s interpreted his relationship with Lestat (Sam Reid) in the years since they parted ways. But there’s an intentional slippage between what Louis says, what we see in the flashback scenes, and how Reid plays Lestat. This slippage purposefully creates a sense that Louis is still reconciling his memories.
The episode opens with Daniel wandering around Louis’s spectacularly vault-like, light-proof luxury apartment. Louis has arranged a sophisticated dinner service for Daniel, but the reporter is told that the vampire will not join the table until the last course. Daniel, bewildered, waits for Louis to show up and resume his story.
When Louis arrives for dinner, he picks up right where he left off, returning to the night Lestat made him a vampire. Lestat’s new side immediately emerges in this episode’s opening stretch. Lestat played the role of a seducer in the pilot, but he steps into the mentor role in this week’s installment. At first, he merrily oversees the vampiric education of his newly minted companion. This Lestat talks of murder and mind-reading with gleeful nonchalance, casually instructing Louis how best to hunt humans.
Here, Lestat gives Louis much more comprehensive guidance than he does in the novel. Book-Louis bemoans the lack of hand-holding, wondering if his transition into the vampire life might have gone more smoothly if Lestat had been a better teacher. This adaptation suggests that the quality of the teaching is not the problem. Show-Lestat is a willing, thorough tutor, but this absolutely does not make things easier for Louis.
As Lestat directs Louis through his first hunt to his first kill, two problems promptly reveal themselves. First, it’s instantly clear that Lestat overstated how much freedom Louis would have as a vampire. From the start, Lestat lays out explicit ground rules about who Louis can kill and where he can do it. Because Louis and Lestat live among humans, hiding in plain sight, they cannot draw undue attention to themselves. They still must follow the rules of society to a certain degree, despite what Lestat promised in the church. Louis has his eye on the most handsome man in the bar for his first victim. Lestat forces his protégé to set his sights lower to avoid detection, recommending an older, traveling salesman instead.
Second, Louis doesn’t enjoy taking human lives. The two vampires take the unsuspecting salesman back to Lestat’s rooms, and Louis kills the poor man in a brutally violent struggle. There’s little joy in watching it, although Lestat observes the proceedings with bemusement, dispensing advice from on high. “You don’t bite the blood, you suck it,” Lestat helpfully offers as Louis makes a mess of his victim’s neck. Louis feels guilty for the murder almost right away.
Overtaken by revulsion, Louis demands to go home, back to his family’s house. Lestat tries to warn Louis that he must stay inside for the day, but Louis doesn’t listen. He stumbles outside into the sunlight, unaware of what will happen. Louis starts to burn, and, in a blind panic, he falls upon a nearby dairy delivery cart and grabs a milk bottle. In what might be the most lurid scene of the episode, Louis desperately pours the milk over his head to soothe his scorched skin.
Lestat covers himself in a cloak and gallantly rescues Louis, gently carrying his charred companion back inside. Lestat tells Louis that the Pointe du Lac house isn’t his home anymore. Instead, Lestat declares that the apartment is the perfect place for “a vampire home, a vampire romance.” Louis agrees to stay, but the implication is that Louis really has no choice. Where is he supposed to go, other than back into Lestat’s arms? Who else will accept him for everything he is, vampire included?
Louis frames his choice to stay with Lestat as consensual after that first night of horrors. Louis assures Daniel that he made the choice to live the life he lived with Lestat. Even as Daniel pushes Louis on this point, the vampire insists on his own complicity. “I got into that coffin of my own free will,” Louis explains. “In the quiet dark, we were equals.”
The power dynamic between Louis and Lestat becomes the shifting heart of the episode. The most intriguing element is the palpable sense of present-day Louis coming to terms with what happened to him. With the clarity of hindsight, Louis can see how Lestat held all the power in their relationship. When Louis dispassionately describes Lestat as “my murderer, my mentor, my lover, and my maker,” he recognizes how this made Lestat an outsized presence in his life. In his narration, Louis categorizes Lestat’s grand romantic gestures as acts of coercion.
Despite this awareness, Louis rejects the victim label. The vampire repeatedly resists Daniel’s facile analysis of his relationship with Lestat. As I mentioned in my previous recap, this version of Louis begins as a self-made man, a money-maker, and a hustler. He can’t see himself as powerless or someone who could be taken advantage of. In addition to this, Louis consistently affords Lestat a measure of grace that he might not deserve. Some of Louis’s attempts to explain Lestat’s behavior smack of, “He didn’t really mean it.”
As for Lestat, he’s an emotional abuser who, like most abusers, would never see himself that way. He simply doesn’t (or can’t or won’t) understand the power imbalance between himself and Louis. Lestat fundamentally misunderstands Louis, and he makes no effort to truly listen to his companion. Lestat believes he’s given Louis a gift, and when Louis voices misgivings about it, Lestat dismisses them out of hand. (“You are a library of confusion,” Lestat comments at one point, happy to leave it at that.) When Louis tries to tell Lestat what he needs, Lestat instead provides what he thinks Louis needs. Lestat is convinced that Louis simply needs to embrace what he is, and then he will enjoy his vampiric existence. Lestat can’t see how he plays any role in Louis’s unhappiness, instead placing all the blame on Louis.
The most disquieting, arresting moments of the episode comes from the juxtapositions between Lestat’s sincere expressions of love and the anguish they eventually cause his companion. This adaptation’s Lestat is undoubtedly a more sympathetic character than the version we get in Rice’s first novel. Reid continues to give a totally beguiling performance, and it’s not hard to see why Louis stays. I don’t think Lestat does mean to hurt Louis so deeply, particularly in the early years depicted in this episode. The fact of the matter, though, is that Louis suffered at Lestat’s hands. The show carefully refuses to let Lestat completely off the hook for this.
Two discrete incidents underline the dual power imbalances set up by Louis’s first kill. In the middle of the episode, Louis finally makes a kill that he relishes, at least a tiny bit. Becoming a vampire hasn’t kept Louis from conducting his business. Louis has started working with a local politician to build a brand new club which he will manage. One night, Louis meets with one of the politician’s men to finalize building plans. When the other man, who is white, condescends to Louis one too many times, Louis snaps and turns the man into dinner.
Lestat scolds Louis for killing a high-profile victim to whom he could easily be connected. Even as a powerful, immortal predator, Louis apparently still has to endure casual racism. Lestat fails to understand Louis’s frustration at this. He ignores how Louis’s situation is different from his own, even after Louis bluntly spells it out. Lestat never seems to fully grasp how Louis must move differently through the world because of his race. However, Lestat tries to make up for hurting Louis’s feelings by buying the club outright from the politician at Louis’s request. Louis renames the club The Azalea and proudly tells Daniel that the club was a success for several years.
The final sequence of the episode brings all of the thematic strands together with heartbreaking precision. After an especially distressing encounter with his family, who Louis still makes an effort to see, Louis comes home distraught to Lestat. Lestat, rather than listen to Louis, love bombs his companion with tickets to the opera and bespoke tuxedos. Louis relents to the distraction, and the two lovers go out on the town.
At this point, Louis finally reveals that when he and Lestat go out in public, Louis poses as Lestat’s valet. Lestat brushes off this humiliation as a practical necessity, but it clearly takes a psychological toll on Louis. The evening takes a turn for the worse when Lestat decides to murder the starring tenor for being off-key. (Lestat had previously pledged that he only “brings death to those who deserve it,” but his definition of “deserving” seems looser than he implied.) Louis watches with increasing resentment as Lestat lures the tenor to his death after the show.
By now, it’s been years since Lestat turned Louis into a vampire, but Louis has never come to share Lestat’s pleasure in committing homicide. Lestat takes his time with the tenor, savoring the kill by drawing out the victim’s emotional and physical suffering. Louis expresses his disgust with Lestat’s sadistic behavior, and Lestat again implores Louis to “embrace what you are.”
Lestat loves being a vampire, and he kills with panache. Louis realizes, then, that in living an existence that requires murder, he will always be lesser than Lestat. Lestat will always be better at being a vampire, and Louis will never “be a natural,” as Lestat hopes. They can never be equally powerful because Louis is, by his own description, “a botched vampire” and a “disinterested, despondent killer.”
Power is in the eye of the beholder, and Louis doesn’t want the power Lestat gave him.
- Daniel admires a painting on Louis’s wall at the beginning of the episode; in another nod to the Vampire Chronicles extended universe, the painting is the work of Marius, a key character in the series.
- A sly, sardonic sense of humor infused the pilot, but the second episode goes all in on the dry comedy. The comedic highlight arrives early in the proceedings when Louis has just resumed his narration. He describes his euphoric state after first drinking Lestat’s blood, and Daniel tartly observes, “You were f***ing loaded.” “Beyond articulation,” Louis replies in exquisite deadpan.
- Was I the only one getting Hannibal vibes from that elaborate seven-course dinner? I kept waiting for Louis to serve Daniel some human blood, so I loved the quiet reversal where Louis ate a human-food dessert for the final course.
- We do get to see how Louis “ethically” feeds in the present day when he dramatically displays his eating habits at dinner for Daniel. First, Louis drains a fox. Then, after proclaiming that he made his last kill in 2000, he sips from the neck of a leather daddy who apparently volunteered for the job.
- I had to laugh at the hypocrisy of Lestat telling Louis to let his human family go when Lestat turned his own mom into a vampire in the books. Perhaps Lestat is just passing on some hard-won wisdom, as he eventually had to let his mother go anyway. Giving her eternal life didn’t guarantee that she’d spend her eternity with him.
- This episode dabbled in some slippery business with the passage of time, as befitting a story about immortals. If I understood correctly, the flashbacks in this episode covered the years from 1910 to 1917.